Should I Rent or Buy Ski and Snowboard Equipment? 5 Things to Consider When Purchasing Gear This Season

Ski expert Parker Moessner breaks down how to decide whether to rent or buy gear for your next winter sports vacation.

Photo by Erik Mclean

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Here we sit at the brink of yet another winter season. The air is brisk, the holidays are upon us, and winter plans are in the making. For many of you, these winter plans include an annual visit to a local ski hill or maybe a more grand adventure to a more mountainous region. Plane tickets, lift tickets, lodging, food, rental equipment—these things start to add up. Each expenditure could have its own article on economic efficiency and best practice but today we focus on the fun stuff; Skis, snowboards, boots, and poles, and whether we could be saving precious time and money on your long-awaited ski vacations.

This is a dive into the overall cost of your ski equipment and whether it’s worth it or not to invest in yourself and a new hobby. Do you wait in those wretched ski shops for some brah to gear up a family of five while you stand at the back of a line, increasing your chances of catching COVID-19? Or do you show up with your act together and catch the early-morning untouched snow? Lots to consider here, so let’s break it down…

Consideration #1: Frequency

Maybe it’s your first trip and you’re the “ski one day a year, for two laps, and get a hot cocoa” kind of person. Maybe you are the “100+ days/I ski on my lunch break” ripper. With these extremes, the answer is obvious; for those of us who fall in between, we have some work to do. First, add up the number of days you plan to ski. This will be a key factor in our equation as we will multiply the cost of our rental packages by this number. On the contrary, we will divide the price of our new skis by this number to see if they are cost-effective.

Maybe you bought a ski pass. To make a contemporary conglomerate ski pass worth it, most notably the Epic or Ikon Passes, the break even point is eight days. This means that the price of your pass will equal the same as eight days of individual lift tickets.

One important note here is that if you purchase your own gear, you will shred more. You will be more inclined to get off that couch, rally the troops, load up, and get out—more than you would be if you didn’t have your own stuff sitting in the corner of your garage reminding you every time you take the dog out. This is not only a monetary investment, this is an investment in your overall health and wellbeing. Especially after the year of quarantine, we could all use a few more reminders to stay active!

Consideration #2: Cost

Skis, boards, boots, poles, and a helmet are the items for hire. Most rental shops have a few tiers to choose from. The “performance” or “sport” packages that most ski shops have (which tend to be anything but performance-like and sporty) start around $35 per day. The higher-priced “demo” packages typically range from $65 to $75 a day. The lower-priced options are not built with you in mind, they are built for the rental shops to use and abuse season after season. “Performance” equipment is typically not available for sale to the general public. If you were to purchase a pair of skis, the quality would far exceed a basic rental. With that in mind, we will use the cost of a demo-ski (normal skis) in our analysis.

An often overlooked aspect of the rental package is the helmet. Generally going for $10 a day, rental, and averaging $80 a pop, retail, it’s a no-brainer to buy your own helmet straight from the get-go. Another factor to consider here is that other people have been using, and sweating, in this helmet for the entirety of the season, maybe for two or three seasons. Also, most helmet quality is sacrificed after a single impact. For safety and sanitary purposes, do yourself a favor and buy that brain bucket!

Okay, it’s math time… For rentals the equation looks like this:

(# of days skiing) x (daily rate of gear) = The amount you will pay EACH YEAR

With eight days on the hill at $65 a day, you’re looking at just over $500. You might as well light that cash on fire once you leave the ski resort because you will never see the product of that expenditure again. Or, you could use that cash toward a swanky new setup that you will use for years to come! The cost of two years of rentals would be the same as the cost of your own equipment that is personalized and perfect for you! The more you ski, the more you pay!

For retail skis we can break it down like this:

(cost of goods purchased) / (number of days skiing) = A far more reasonable daily rate for quality equipment

In this scenario, the more you ski the more you save! Now that’s a win-win.

Consideration #3: Quality

What is your ability level? Would you like to become a better skier? If you would like to become an advanced skier, ditch the rental gear. Your own equipment will help you progress faster because you will use it multiple times, ensuring consistency. As stated earlier, rental gear is made for the masses. By replacing ski technology found in retail skis with heavier materials that can withstand the abuse of the masses, not only are you paying a premium but also you are paying a premium for sub-par equipment. With your own equipment and getting on the right skis, you will own something that aligns with your skill level and fits you as a person.

Ski boots are a whole other beast. Your foot is as unique as your fingerprint. Often considered the first piece of equipment someone should buy, the comfortability and performance of your ski boots could make or break your ski trip. Purple toes, raw shins, and sore arches are all side effects of a poorly-fitting boot. Skiing in a boot that is the right size, correct width, proper fit, and perfect stiffness is a game-changer when it comes to being in control and being comfortable. Doesn’t being in control and being comfortable sound nice?

Consideration #4: Time

If time is money, and money is the root of all evil, and evil is ever-present, that means there is no time like the present to buy some ski gear. All jokes aside, you will save a lot of time owning your own gear! Skip the rental lines and enjoy fresh lines. The average rental experience varies. On crowded days you could be standing in lines for hours. On the mellow mid-week day, the shop kid could process you in as little as 15 minutes. You worked all year to take this time off, don't spend it standing in line! (Save that for the lifts.)

Consideration #5: Kids

If you are shopping for your kids, there are a few ways to go about things. You might have the perfect age progression among your kids that you can outfit them all with gear, and they can pass equipment down as they get older and be happy. If the stars do not align perfectly, many shops offer what’s known as a “season rental.” Sometimes, a growing child (both in mass and ability) will need a different size of ski gear at the end of a season than they needed at the beginning of the season. Season rental programs allow you to trade in your gear as needed throughout the season. This is a great option for recreational skiers. Any child who wishes to race or advance in the park will be better off with personal gear.

Conclusion

Buying your own ski gear is less money, higher quality, less hassle, and saves you time, unless you’re a kid. If you want to take your skiing to new levels and make the most out of your trip and invest in yourself, talk to one of our experts! Here at Curated, we are simplifying online ski buying. You may live in a place where you don’t have access to a ski shop and buying skis online is daunting and confusing. You may live in a place where there are tons of ski shops but you want to remain socially distant. You may have these questions: What length do I get? How do I know these skis are right for me? What brake width do I get for my bindings? Thanks to Curated, all of these questions can be answered by speaking directly with one of our experts from the comfort of your home!

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For me, skiing provides an exhilarating thrill. The refreshing feeling of snow packed in every crevasse of your gear, screaming down a mountain at seemingly Mach speeds, and chasing your friends and family, are all factors that contribute to a good time. The lessons skiing has taught me are embedded...

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